Too Busy for the Gym? Here are 8 Easy Ways to Keep from Becoming a Total Sloth

We promise, anybody can fit these little bouts of physical activity into their day

For many of us, our days are packed with work, school and family obligations, along with grocery shopping, cleaning and running errands. Add even one more thing and a busy life can suddenly turn chaotic. So what happens to exercise when you’re feeling overloaded? My advice: forget about it. By that I mean, forget about trying to fit in a visit to the gym and focus instead on incorporating physical activity into your daily routine. You’ll be less stressed, and you’ll enjoy finding new ways to make your daily routine more active.

So what’s the difference between exercise and physical activity? Physical activity is defined as any bodily movement produced by skeletal muscles, which results in energy expenditure above resting levels. While exercise is defined as physical activity that is planned, structured and repetitive and has a final or intermediate objective: the improvement or maintenance of physical fitness. The basic difference between the two is that one is structured and planned (exercise) while the other is any movement at all (physical activity).

So when you’re in the middle of an exceptionally busy or stressful time, don’t stress about fitting in time at the gym, just focus on incorporating physical activity throughout your day. The recommended amount is at least 150 minutes of moderate physical activity a week. Even short bursts throughout the day make a difference.

Here are eight ways to stay physically active when life gets a bit too busy!

  • Walk the mall. Take a few extra laps at the mall when you’re shopping. Even better: grab a friend and go scope out the deals.
  • Park farther away. Chances are you’re not going to find a spot close to the door, so don’t waste time circling the lot when you can get in a few extra steps.  
  • Take the stairs. Look for the stairs, wherever you are — in your house, at work, at the mall — because stairs are free exercise equipment!  
  • Plan a touch football game. Gather your family and friends for a fun, heart-friendly game of touch football. It’s a great way to spend quality time with the kids and adults in your life.  
  • Go ice-skating. There’s nothing like ice-skating under the stars or on a bright afternoon. You’ll never even notice that you’re working up a sweat!  
  • Build a snowman. Who says you have to be a kid to build a snowman? This is a great full body workout.
  • Take a five-minute stretch break. Sitting in front of a computer all day can build up a lot of tension in your muscles. Stand up and stretch out.  
  • March in place. We know you love to watch your favorite shows. But instead of just dropping down into the sofa, stand up and start marching while you watch. Want to take it to the next level? Throw in some jumping jacks at every commercial break.

Once you’re moving more, you may want to start an exercise routine. Here are 10 ways to get started. 

Melissa Hendricks, M.Ed is manager of the Cleveland Clinic Fitness Centers. Read more of Melissa’s advice at

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